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Budget funds electric car rebates, climate change initiatives

New York lawmakers secured funding for environmental initiatives, including rebates for electric and “zero-emission” vehicles, and established a $14 million account that could be tapped for climate change initiatives, as part of the state budget approved Friday.

The car rebates would provide up to $2,000 per vehicle for individual buyers and $5,000 per vehicle for local municipalities. It also would grant rebates to municipalities for building related infrastructure, such as charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations. Environmentalists hailed the idea as a way to reduce the high volume of carbon emissions produced by conventional cars.

“It appears that New York State is going to fill a gap in its effort to address climate change,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, a lobbying group. “This was a glaring omission in New York’s efforts to tackle climate change.”

The federal government already offers tax credits of up to $7,500 to purchasers of electric vehicles and hybrids, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“With a transportation sector that accounts for 35 percent of New York’s greenhouse gas emissions, a consumer electric vehicle rebate is one of the best ways for New York to drive away climate pollution,” said Kat Fisher, the Sierra Club’s New York Electric Vehicle Initiative organizer.

The Sierra Club said an electric vehicle emits 70 percent fewer harmful emissions than a conventional car. The legislation follows Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement in 2014 that New York would join seven other states in working to add more clean vehicles to the nation’s roads. The goal is to put 3.3 million of the zero-emission vehicles on roads in those eight states by 2025.

The budget also establishes a $14 million “Climate Change Account” that could be used to fund projects that would lower greenhouse gas emissions and protect regions from flooding. For example, it could pay for rooftop solar generators, said Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket). The budget allocates $1.5 million for water testing, including for lead in schools, and $12 million to fight harmful invasive species. The money could be used to destroy the pine beetle infestations that have grown throughout the state, and in particular, Suffolk County.

Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury) said $5 million was secured for North Hempstead Town to dredge Hempstead Harbor, on the North Shore of Nassau County, which has a buildup of silt that has made it difficult for boats to pass.

The budget also earmarked $1.8 million for the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission; $200,000 for groundwater monitoring in Nassau County as part of the Long Island Pesticide Prevention Pollution program; and $1 million to study a deep water port at the never-completed Shoreham power plant.

Englebright said leaders also have agreed to use $11 million already allocated to projects involving the Long Island Sound. The goal, Englebright said, is to use the funds for several initiatives involving the Sound but also other environmental projects across Long Island, including a groundwater study, the repair of sewer districts damaged by superstorm Sandy, and the study of contamination in the Northrop Grumman plume in Bethpage.


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